Turkish leader outlines short-term plans
Istanbul — Turkey's military rulers intend to act rapidly to clear the way for an early return to normal political life -- but they have no definite timetable for it yet.
Analysts close to the National Security Council, the ruling five-member junta , indicate that the return to civilian administration should be thought of "in terms of months and not of years."
Foreign diplomats also note that the new military leaders do not seem to have long-term, ambitious programs in mind at this time.
"There is no question here about undertaking drastic or radical measures to improve the nation's political, economic, and social problems, and to wait for the results," a political expert commented here.
"The Turkish generals will probably confine themselves to changing the Constitution and some other laws and readjusting them according to the country's conditions. Once they do this, they will hand over power to civilians."
Gen. Kenan Evren, the author of the Sept. 12 military coup who has also assumed the title of head of state, already has tried to reassure Turkish and world opinion that the military administration does not want to stay in power for a long time.
In his first press conference Sept. 16, he said the armed forces would like to go back to their original duty -- which is to defend the country from external enemies -- and that "all efforts will be deployed to ensure this in the shortest possible time."
But General Evren was unable to give a clearer idea on what he means by "the shortest possible time." When asked about it, he replied "It might be misleading to give a definite date."
But he spelled out his short-term plans. He said a civilian Cabinet will be announced this week. He did not elaborate, but the Cabinet is expected to include several middle-of-the-road politicians as well as technocrats.
General Evren also disclosed that a provisional constitution will be in operation. It is understood that legal experts among the military have just started to work on a temporary constitution, replacing the one that has been suspended by the junta.
As for the proposed constituent assembly, it might take a few weeks until it comes into existence. It will have the job of drawing up a new constitution and amending the laws on political parties and national elections, as well as the penal code.
General Evren hinted that these laws will be more restrictive than the previous ones when he said that certain provisions would be included that would "protect democracy" from those who want to degrade or destroy it, as it has been the case in the last few years.
In trying to justify the military takeover, General Evren explained how extremist ideological and religious groups exploited the existing democratic laws and threatened the basis of the modern Turkish republic, as established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He said that strong safeguards now were needed to protect these principles and democracy.
His statement left no doubt that many laws and practices will be changed. One of them almost certainly would be the system of electing a president. Under the previous system, Parliament could go on for weeks or months without any result. For example, more than 100 sessions were held since last March, but there was no agreement on any candidate for president.
General Evren referred to the Greek Constitution, which limits the polling to a maximum of three sessions, and suggested similar limitations in Turkey.
The intention of the new military regime to maintain the same liberal economic policy followed by the deposed government was confirmed by General Evren. On foreign affairs, he reiterated the intention to carry out commitments to the Western allies.
He also indicated that the Soviet Union had a special place among Turkey's neighbors with which it wanted to develop its relations, and he added that particular importance will be given to the development of ties with the Islamic countries.
On Greece, General Evren said "All efforts will be deployed for the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations and for Greece's return to NATO." Diplomats noted that this straightforward statement indicated new Turkish moves to resolve Greco-Turkish differences and strengthen NATO's southeastern flank.